New York's SAFE Act draws praise, and criticism
New York now has some of the strictest gun laws in the United States thanks to the New York SAFE Act, passed in the dead of night and signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo.
SAFE stands for Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement, and proponents claim New Yorkers will be safe from gun crime as a result of the bill's passage.
Detractors have contended that the main thing people were kept safe from was the cigar smoke in Albany's backrooms where the deal was concocted.
Assemblyman Christopher S. Friend (R-Big Flats) expressed frustration at the return to Albany's rushed backroom, late night deals and a lack of transparency in the way the legislature does the people's business.
"In honor of all victims of violence, we must approach this problem with patience and good faith. Disregarding the 72-hour aging requirement for legislation and working in secret late at night does not help anyone," Friend said.
The SAFE Act passed New York's Assembly on a 104 to 43 vote. None of Tioga County's state representatives voted in favor of the SAFE Act, including Friend and Senator Tom Libous (R). Tioga's former Assemblyman Gary Finch (R) also voted no.
"I support particular components of the bill, such as requiring mental health professionals to report patients who pose a serious danger to themselves or to others, broadening Kendra's Law by extending the duration of mandated treatment and providing for the transfer of a treatment order should an individual move from one county to another, and increasing the penalties for illegal gun sales and use, which I have advocated for many years," Finch said in a statement.
"Lacking public hearings and consultation with school officials and other professionals, however, I cannot support this legislation," Finch said.
"This legislation, as it stands currently, would not have stopped the violent attacks in Newtown, Connecticut or Webster, New York," Friend said. "This bill will, however, punish law-abiding citizens who value their Second Amendment rights, while doing little to address the real problem," Friend added.
Supporters applauded the SAFE Act's passage.
"New York took a bold step to curb gun violence and make sure that our communities are safer," Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli said. "The governor and Legislature were right to take swift action and pass sensible legislation to expand the state's ban on assault weapons and pass tougher measures to ensure that guns are kept out of the wrong hands. As a state and a nation, we must find common sense ways to end the tragedies caused by gun violence. States across the nation should follow New York's lead," DiNapoli said.
"This new law will limit gun violence through common sense, reasonable reforms that will make New York a safer place to live," Cuomo said while signing the bill in Rochester. "When society confronts serious issues, it is the function of government to do something, and the NY SAFE Act will now give New York State the toughest, strongest protections against gun violence in the nation," he added.
Among the more controversial aspects of the law is a requirement for gun owners to register "assault weapons," which look like the weapons used by the military superficially but are functionally no different than many rifles not included in the ban. A list of guns which must now be registered during the next year by their owners is on the New York State Police website, troopers.ny.gov/Firearms/NYS_SAFE_Act. The bill also outlaws the sale of clips holding more than seven rounds of ammunition.
Concerns over the SAFE Act have been voiced by many people, from the National Rifle Association to mental health professionals who fear that patients will no longer be forthcoming because of new disclosure requirements, and that the emphasis on the mentally ill adds another stigma to an already ostracized patient. Gun owners were expected today to rally outside the capital in Albany to protest the new laws.